Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent Frank Roselli said website hsmemes.com had "a flood of negative and abusive postings" between students, but posted anonymously, and this prompted the superintendent to ask for additional police presence at the two high schools yesterday.
Roselli said the Toms River Police have been monitoring the site and made the decision Monday night to add police presence at the two schools. Tuesday an additional office and police car patroled high schools North and East but the day otherwise proceeded without interruption.
"The nature of several of the comments resulted in a decision I made last evening with our local chief of police to provide an additional officer and an additional police car outside of HSE and HSN," Roselli said in a prepared statement last night. "I was at HSN this morning and Jim Hauenstein was at HSE. The school day proceeded normally. All of our students are safely in their classes and all schools have normal operations.”
Though the online bullying did not translate into an in-school disruption yesterday, Roselli said there will be a continued monitoring of the website, and continued presence in the schools.
Tracking who made the online threats is under investigation.
The site hsmemes.com allows for anonymous posting and does not track the IP addresses of its users, said the school district.
“The fact that this organization does not collect the IP address of the registrant is problematic," said Toms River Regional Schools Director of Technology Linda Sorrentino in a prepared statement. "Without this, students can register anonymously without fear of being tracked. We have come across websites like this that work outside of the United States and therefore do not cooperate with law enforcement. This is the first such website I have seen in the U.S.”
The impact social media sites have on bullying and harassment is challenging, Roselli said.
“Social media is a constant concern and challenge for school officials and we are having an issue with one particular web site ... in that it allows postings that contain foul language and is completely anonymous," Roselli said.
The site has been blocked from all district computers, meaning it can no longer be accessed from classroom, library or other desktop computers in the schools. The district is trying to contact the website to get the Toms River schools removed from the social media site, Roselli said.
However, the issues with students using hsmemes.com to harass other students must be monitored by parents as their children access the site from home, Roselli said.
“This site is blocked at all of our schools and we would encourage parents to monitor their child’s online activity and social media presence on the web," said the superintendent.
"As part of our ongoing program to eliminate Bullying, Intimidation and Harassment, we will always teach our students that social media requires personal responsibility," Roselli said.